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In Bid to 'Make Life Even Easier' for Oil and Gas Giants, Trump Moves to Roll Back Methane Regulations

"This administration never misses an opportunity to do the wrong thing."

The Trump administration is moving to roll back Obama-era methane regulations—its latest attempt to alleviate fossil fuel industries of any responsibility to limit dangerous emissions. (Photo: WildEarthGuardians/Flickr/cc)

In a move transparently aimed at alleviating the $146 billion fossil fuel industry of the cost of cutting down on its environmental pollution, the Trump administration is making its latest attempt to roll back Obama-era regulations for methane emissions from oil and gas wells.

"It's not just a failure to avert bad outcomes; it’'s an affirmative choice to accelerate them." —Seth D. Michaels, Union of Concerned Scientists

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the New York Times, is set to release a proposal this week to weaken the 2016 rule which requires that oil and gas companies closely monitor methane leaks, which are common in the industry's drilling operations.

A study by the University of Reading in Great Britain earlier this year found that just one metric ton of methane emissions has the same capacity to warm the planet as 32 metric tons of carbon—even higher than previous estimates.

Under President Donald Trump's new proposal, oil and gas companies will have to monitor their drilling operations for methane leaks just once every year, or two years in some cases, and will have 60 days to repair any breaches. President Barack Obama's rule mandated that leaks must be identified every six months and fixed within 30 days.

As the Times notes, the rollback could save the oil and gas industries $484 billion by 2025—months after Trump's tax plan added about $1 billion to their annual profits by cutting the corporate tax rate by 14 percent. 

Meanwhile, the Times reports, the Interior Department is also set to release a new proposal to allow the burning of methane at drilling sites.

Since Trump took office, federal courts have rejected a number of attempts by the EPA to delay or suspend the Obama-era methane regulations, before former agency head Scott Pruitt resigned in July. The new proposals demonstrate that Pruitt's successor, Andrew Wheeler, is equally intent on rolling back regulations in the interest of fossil fuel industries.

In recent weeks, the agency has also proposed rolling back carbon emission standards for vehicles and weakening federal regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The proposal comes as Hurricane Florence heads toward the East Coast, forcing about a million residents of Virginia and South Carolina to evacuate—the latest powerful storm whose large size and intensity scientists have attributed to the climate crisis.

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